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Pub/Bar of the Month March 2018: The Royal Oak, Borough, London

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The Royal Oak, Borough, London, UK

One of the best-loved watering holes for clued-up beer lovers in central London is a quiet sidestreet boozer near Borough tube station.

Royal Oak, BoroughThe bold, brash charms of the city’s modern beer bars may be tempting but many knowing drinkers nevertheless still prefer to visit the far humbler Royal Oak.

This down-to-earth pub sits on a corner of Tabard Street – a name that recalls the hostelry where Chaucer’s pilgrims congregated prior to setting off on their tale-telling journey to Canterbury.

I’ve no doubt that many tall tales have been told within the Royal Oak, too, as it’s the sort of place where a pint and a chat are paramount.

The pub has been here since the 19th century but the upturn in its fortunes and reputation came in the late 1990s when it became the first London pub for Harvey’s, the Sussex brewery.

Victorian Layout

In adopting the pub, Harvey’s took great pains to create a true locals’ atmosphere, stripping back the interior so that it would not look out of place back in the Victorian days in which it was constructed.

The pub divides into two parts. The slightly larger front bar is beautifully basic, with tall, partly-netted windows ensuring it is neither dark nor dowdy. Pew seating and functional upright chairs huddle around a collection of tables, and a splash of colour is added here and there by old music hall posters.

Bare boards on the floor are roughly covered by a large rug but that’s as soft as the furnishings get.

The bar – solid and ornately shaped from dark wood – runs right across the high-ceilinged room. You can slip through the hatch into the back lounge if you can’t be bothered to negotiate the doors that lead in and out of the old jug-and-bottle off-sales area at the side.

In that lounge, the décor is a little more soothing but it’s still homely, with a no-frills lack of pretence.

Food is served at lunchtimes and evenings from a long, colourful, reasonably-priced menu tacked to the wall. Many customers, however, content themselves with the nourishment of Harvey’s splendid range of cask ales.

Four or five tend to be available, including Sussex Best Bitter, Mild, Armada and IPA (still badged here as Sussex Pale Ale), and there may be a Fuller’s guest ale, too.

The Royal Oak’s varied customers have the nonchalant air of folk who know all too well that there are more exciting and vibrant places just around the corner but are quietly content to take their refreshment here, comfortably away from the bustle of busy Borough High Street.

Next time you’re in the area, you might like to join them.

The Royal Oak, 44 Tabard Street, Borough, London SE1 4JU.
Tel. (020) 7357 7173
www.royaloaklondon.co.uk
Opening Hours: 11–11; 12–11 Saturday; 12–9 Sunday



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